Early childhood educators are in demand in Whanganui and UCOL reports that more than half of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECE) students had secured employment in the industry before completing their studies last year.
Whanganui student Korimako Mako is working towards her ECE bachelor qualification while on practicum placement at Central Kindergarten in Keith St.
"I completed the level 3 certificate at Training For You before the Covid lockdown and then completed my level 4 training at UCOL," Mako said.
"Now I have received a TeachNZ scholarship which will enable me to work towards my bachelor qualification."
Mako said she started working as a volunteer at Central Kindergarten before starting her studies and had formed "brilliant relationships" with the children and staff there.
"I'm passionate about kohanga reo and I also help out at Mangawhero Kohanga in Guyton St as well," she said.
"I really enjoy bilingual ECE teaching and Central Kindergarten embraces te reo Māori as part of the kaupapa here."
Central Kindergarten teacher Donna Stanford has mentored Mako during her studies and said learning was a two-way experience.
"Korimako fitted in so well from the beginning and we learn from her as much as she learns from us," Stanford said.
"Early childhood teachers are always learning and Korimako always asks really good questions which remind me of why we practise the way we do and she brings her own new knowledge and ideas with her.
"We are very lucky to have her here."
UCOL Early Childhood Education and Care Programme leader Sarah Glenny said there had been a steady increase in students finding work while still studying and many of these job opportunities came after students completed practicums in local early childhood learning centres and kindergartens as part of their studies.
"Our programmes are designed for work," Glenny said.
"We get excellent support from the Early Childhood Centres across our regions, with these centres playing an important role in the education of our students. They are committed to the development of their potential workforce."
While ECE teachers were in demand, teachers' union NZEI said some teachers were paid 31.8 per cent less than kindergarten and primary teachers with the same skills, qualifications and responsibilities.
While kindergarten teachers won an 18.5 per cent pay rise in 2019, other ECE teachers were lagging behind by around $17,000 in annual pay.
NZEI is calling on Education Minister Chris Hipkins to make good on an election promise to deliver pay parity for ECE teachers in the Budget in May.